The Garden Tipple: Pickled Summer Martini

Pickled Martini

We’re a bit pickled, Boozers. A bumper crop of adorable Mexican Sour Gherkins in the cocktail garden left us somewhat overwhelmed, until we decided to just pickle the little darlings. And, to make it a bit more fun, we pickled them in tequila, which they liked just fine, thank you very much, providing us with two excellent ingredients for a perfectly summery martini: a pickled cucumber garnish and a tasty brine to stand in for the vermouth.

The trick to a really good martini is to make sure that every ingredient is really cold — from the liquor to the garnish to the glass itself — and there’s kind of nothing more luscious on a sticky summer evening when you’ve dragged yourself home from work than to be presented with a perfectly chilled cocktail just as you open the front door, calling out “Lucy, I’m home!” Our Pickled Summer Martini will hit that spot.

Pickled Summer Martini

Some people like a gin martini, some like vodka, so the liquor you use here is really up to you. We chose to use our favorite Catoctin Creek Watershed Gin, which is rye-based, because we like its herbaceous bite, but we can enjoy it equally well with the smooth richness of Boyd & Blair’s Potato Vodka. Check out your local distilleries and give them some love.

2 ounces chilled gin or vodka

1 ounce fresh cucumber juice (recipe below – you’ll need a cucumber)

a few drops of pickle brine, preferably from our Tequila-Pickled Gherkins  (you could also substitute brine from a jar of cornichons)

Several pickled gherkins or cornichons, for garnish

First, make the cucumber juice. Take a fresh peeled cucumber, cut into chunks, and put it in a blender with a tablespoon or two of water. Blend on high until liquefied, then strain. Discard pulp and chill the remaining liquid thoroughly, at least 30 minutes.

Then, take a martini glass and rinse the outside of it lightly in cold water, shaking off the excess. Then add a few drops of pickle brine to the glass and coat the glass well with the brine, pouring off any excess. Put a few pickled gherkins on a cocktail skewer and place in the glass, then put the whole thing in the freezer for 15 minutes. Chilling the garnish this way helps keep that martini really cold when you serve it.

When the cucumber juice and martini glass with the garnish are sufficiently chilled, pour the cucumber juice and gin or vodka into a cocktail shaker with a few ice cubes. Shake vigorously, then strain into the chilled martini glass with garnish. Serve immediately.





The Garden Tipple: Mary’s Cherry

Mary's Cherry

Get your minds out of the gutter, Boozers. It’s cherry tomato season and the little darlings are exploding in the garden these days, meaning that we are overrun with little red — and pink, and yellow — globules of goodness. So we decided that we needed a Bloody Mary.

While you can purchase Bloody Mary mixer in the store — and some of it can be quite tasty — it’s also a snap to make, especially this time of year when the tomato crop is obscene in its abundance. Cherry tomatoes make for a nice base, both sweet and tart at once, rather like our friend Mary. We’ve upped the ante on our version, Mary’s Cherry, by also marinating a handful of cherry tomatoes in vodka, which makes for a rather potent brunch cocktail. Collect the car keys at the door and settle in.

Mary’s Cherry

A classic Bloody Mary requires horseradish and Worcestershire Sauce to give it some kick, but don’t neglect other flavors to amp it up. Here in the mid-Atlantic, it’s popular to add Old Bay Seasoning to the mix, but curry powder, smoked paprika, ramps, and pickled hot peppers are other ingredients that you might try out to customize the flavor to your own tastebuds.

3 ounces Bloody Cherry Tomato Mix (recipe here)

2 ounces vodka (we like Boyd & Blair – you can also use the vodka from the Drunken Cherry Tomatoes)

4 Drunken Cherry Tomatoes (recipe here)

Cucumber and fresh parsley for garnish (optional — use whatever you like)

Place the Drunken Cherry Tomatoes in the bottom of a tall glass and muddle lightly to break the skins. Add a few ice cubes, then the vodka and Bloody Cherry Tomato Mix. Stir well and garnish. Serve immediately.

The Garden Tipple: Lady Luck

Lady Luck

We’re feeling lucky, Boozers. Some days you just grab life by the horns and you shake the hell out of it, and, at the end of it all, you pour yourself a great big celebratory drink and everything feels right with the world.

Of course, you have no idea what will happen tomorrow, but somehow it just doesn’t matter when you’re walking barefoot through an early summer evening, the air slightly thick with humidity and fat bumblebees drowsily buzzing through tall stalks of magenta phlox. The cares of the world feel far away when luck is on your side, whether you’re rolling the dice in a smoky backroom or playing fast and loose in affairs of the heart, so it’s better not to think too hard about the consequences. Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.

Lady Luck

We’re mildly obsessed with cherries this time of year, piled seductively at the market or winking at us insouciantly from the branches of their mother tree. Our favorite way to capture their summery sweetness is in our Wicked Cherry Syrup, which we bring together with lightly tart grapefruit juice for a new riff on the classic Sea Breeze cocktail.

2 ounces chilled vodka (we enjoy Boyd & Blair)

2 ounces chilled grapefruit juice (we prefer mildly sweet pink grapefruit juice here)

1.5 ounces Wicked Cherry Syrup

fresh cherries for garnish

Put first three ingredients in a shaker filled with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled martini or cosmo glass, then garnish with fresh cherries.

The Friday Tipple: La Violette

La Violette

Spring has sprung, Boozers. Bees are buzzing, flowers are blooming, and all appears to be right with the world. At least until summer humidity arrives.

Standard garden-variety flowers make lovely cocktails, if only you know what to do with them. It’s simple enough: grab a handful of petals — after determining, of course, that they are not poisonous — and then throw them into a simple syrup or use them to infuse some vodka, gin, or white wine. For us, the essence of spring is the precious little violet, peeping shyly from the new green grass in exotic hues of purple and yellow; its flavor is soft and slightly woodsy, giving a fresh essence to a spring cocktail, along with a delicate violet color. Vive le printemps.

La Violette

Infused simple syrups are, of course, wildly easy to make, and our Violet Simple Syrup is no exception. The color will be a deep green, but, when added to liquid, it will become a charming shade of pale violet. There is the barest soupçon of Chartreuse in this recipe, but you can skip it entirely if you don’t have a bottle at home, or feel free to substitute a few drops of St. Germain if you have a bottle of that on hand.

1.5 ounces gin or vodka (we prefer Boyd & Blair Vodka or Catoctin Creek Watershed Gin)

3 drops Chartreuse or St. Germain (optional, but definitely no more than 3 drops)

Chilled club soda

large teaspoon Violet Simple Syrup

Violet for garnish (try dipping it briefly in simple syrup then let it air dry)

small wedge of fresh lemon

Fill a glass with ice and add the gin or vodka and a few drops of the Chartreuse or St. Germain. Top with the chilled club soda and the Violet Simple Syrup and stir well. Garnish with the candied or fresh violet and add a tiny squeeze of fresh lemon juice just before serving (discard the lemon, do not serve with the cocktail itself).




The Friday Tipple: Et Tu, Brutus?

Et Tu, Brutus?

We’re feeling nostalgic again, Boozers. A common winter ailment has left us craving vitamin C, which caused us to reminisce fondly about that childhood food court staple, the Orange Julius. Frothy and delicious, creamy and orange, there was no treat more prized when dragged to the mall in search of new snow boots or Power Rangers underwear. The promise of it served to make the torture of waiting for Mother to purchase the perfect pocket squares for Dad almost bearable.

While an Orange Julius has next to nothing to do with the Roman emperor of the same name, we find ourselves thinking of togas and chariot races nonetheless, and Italy is, of course, simply dripping with fresh oranges, so we don’t think it such a stretch to imagine that Caesar would have enjoyed a refreshing frozen orange concoction to help him while away a long hot afternoon at the baths. Et Tu, Brutus? is our version, just kicked up a notch or two. Enjoy it as you plan your next conquest.

Et Tu, Brutus?

Vanilla-laced vodka and mandarinetto – basically limoncello made with oranges – are a lovely combination for this grown-up treat. If you can, infuse a good vodka with a couple of split vanilla beans for a week or two; otherwise you can use a good vodka and scrape a vanilla bean into the mixture or simply add a good quality pure vanilla extract. Most homemade versions of the Orange Julius will tell you to use defrosted orange juice concentrate and ice cubes, but we prefer to make ours with frozen orange juice cubes – simply pour fresh orange juice into an ice cube tray and freeze until solid, about two hours.

4 frozen orange juice cubes

1 ounce vodka (we prefer Boyd & Blair)

1 ounce Mandarinetto (our favorite is Don Ciccio & Figli – you can use another orange liqueur like Grand Marnier if necessary)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (or scrape one vanilla bean)

2 ounces coconut milk or cream (we like So Delicious Coconut Milk Half-n-Half)

1 teaspoon orange blossom honey or other sweetener

1/2 teaspoon baking soda (this counteracts the acidity of the orange juice)

additional ice cubes and fresh orange juice as needed

orange wedge for garnish

Put first seven ingredients in a blender and blend until well-combined, thick, and frothy. Add additional ice cubes if too liquid, add orange juice if too frozen. Pour into a tall glass and garnish with orange wedge and a straw; serve immediately.

The Friday Tipple: Mexican Cocoa Martini with Drunken Fluff

Mexican Cocoa Martini

We’re snow-weary, Boozers. Winter seems to be hanging on with a vengeance and we feel the need to burrow down until spring, so we set out in search of sweet salvation. Believe us, one sip of our Mexican Cocoa Martini and that Doppler radar will be just a distant memory.

And, as if that weren’t enough, we had to top the whole thing off with a dollop of our Drunken Fluff, which, admittedly, is a bit over the top, but we know you’ll agree that it’s as necessary as a shiny red bow on a beautifully-wrapped box. In fact, we predict that you’ll be looking for excuses to add it to waffles, ice cream sundaes, and your morning cup o’ joe.

Mexican Cocoa Martini with Drunken Fluff

This little cocktail packs a powerful punch, so eat a snack before you suck it down. The Drunken Fluff can be made in advance and stored in an airtight container in the freezer — it won’t freeze solid, and can be scooped out whenever you need a little boozy puff of happiness.

2 ounces vodka (we like Boyd & Blair, but please support your own local distillery)

1 ounce Kahlua

Splash of Creme de Cacao

1 teaspoon cocoa powder mixed with  1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon

1 large spoonful Drunken Fluff (recipe below)

Put vodka, Kahlua, and Creme de Cacao in a small saucepan over low heat. Whisk in the cocoa powder and cinnamon until it is thoroughly blended and the liquid is hot but not boiling. Warm the martini glass slightly and pour in the Mexican Cocoa; top with the Drunken Fluff.

to make the Drunken Fluff:

3 egg whites at room temperature

1 cup castor sugar

1 cup corn syrup

1 vanilla bean, split

1/4 cup water

1/2 cup whiskey (we used Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye — you could also use bourbon, rum, or whatever strikes your fancy)

First, make the whiskey sugar syrup. Put the sugar, corn syrup, water, whiskey, and vanilla bean into a saucepan and heat slowly over low heat, stirring constantly for a few minutes. Bring to a low simmer and check the temperature with a candy thermometer — you want to heat it to 220 degrees Fahrenheit, but not any higher than that. Remove the vanilla bean.

While the syrup is coming up to temperature, whip the egg whites for about 5 minutes in an electric mixer, until they form soft peaks. Add the hot syrup slowly in a continuous stream with the mixer running at a medium speed, then increase the speed to high for several minutes until the mixture has a consistent creamy and fluffy texture. Allow to cool and then store in an airtight container in the freezer.

The Friday Tipple: Sochi Dreams

Sochi Dreams

We’re feeling a little international, Boozers. There are those who say that sports transcend geographical borders, drawing people together from all parts of the globe to cheer on their favorite athletes in every sport imaginable, from ping-pong to diving to cricket to curling. Some sports place emphasis on the individual while others are all about team effort.

A cocktail, of course, is a team effort in which each individual must play its part to complete the whole. We’ve been honored to work with some tasty liqueurs by one of our hometown favorites, Don Ciccio & Figli, crafting several combinations that celebrate flavors from around the world. With the Winter Olympics approaching, we’ve decided to cozy up with our version of a White Russian, which we’re calling Sochi Dreams. Sip it whether you dream of Olympic glory or for greater equality everywhere. За любовь!

Sochi Dreams

For this particular cocktail, we combined Don Ciccio & Figli’s Concerto (a barley and espresso-based liqueur) with Catoctin Creek Mosby’s Spirit, a white whiskey that we think makes a great substitute for vodka. However, we enjoy vodka as much as the next person, so when we make this with vodka, we like Boyd & Blair potato vodka, which has a nice clean and crisp finish.

1 ounce Don Ciccio & Figli Concerto 
1 ounce white whiskey or vodka
2 ounces coconut milk (we used So Delicious Coconut Creamer)
1/2 ounce cinnamon tincture (Bittermen’s Hiver Amer works really well also)

Put all ingredients into a cocktail shaker, shake thoroughly, and strain into a chilled cocktail coupe or martini glass. Dust with grated nutmeg (optional). For a variation, pour over ice into a rocks glass, preferably coffee ice cubes instead of just plain ice cubes.

The Friday Tipple: Nutella Whiskey Dream

Nutella Whiskey Dream

We’ve found the new Dream Team, Boozers. Forget sports, we’re talking about a creamy liquid confection that will knock your socks off — although this week’s hot cocktail would be just about perfect to sip on the slopes while watching snowboarding in Sochi. We call it a Nutella Whiskey Dream — but don’t pinch yourself, because it’s real and ready for imbibing even as the Polar Vortex swirls around your ears.

Nutella, that lovely Italian hazelnut spread that French bébés love to slurp off their toasted baguettes before trooping off to school, was in the news a year ago because of a French tax on products that contain palm oil, thereby increasing the cost of Nutella to the French populace. Sacre bleu! Our advice to French senators: beware of renewed interest in the guillotine.

Luckily for Americans, our own senators don’t mind a bit if we want to liberally slather palm oil all over every morsel, so we feel compelled to enjoy Nutella at any moment. Of course, you can also prepare your own homemade version without that nasty palm oil, and thumb your nose at Big Government and Big Industry at the same time. A hipster coffee bistro in the Good Booze ‘hood specializes in a tasty Nutella latté, so naturally we wondered how we might riff off of this in the comfort of our own home. Say hello to the Nutella Whiskey Dream, a tasty little slice of heaven on those long winter evenings by the fire dreaming of Olympic glory. A votre santé!

Nutella Whiskey Dream

We like this with whiskey, cuz we’re ‘Merican, but if you’re feeling particularly Russian, you could try it with vodka (Boyd and Blair would be our choice then). Drink up.

4 ounces hot milk (cow, soy, coconut, whatever you like)

1.5 ounces whiskey (we prefer the spicy goodness of Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye)

1 heaping tablespoon Nutella

Freshly whipped cream spiked with Frangelico liqueur (optional… no, really it isn’t. You need this.)

Powdered unsweetened cocoa, for dusting the whipped cream

Put the Nutella in the bottom of a mug or heat-safe glass; add 1/4 cup hot milk and mix thoroughly, then add the rest of the milk and the whiskey. Stir well, then top with whipped cream and dust with cocoa. Serve immediately.

The Friday Tipple: Robert Frost-ini

Robert Frost-ini

We’re waxing poetic, Boozers. As we cozy up into the holiday season and the darkest days of winter, we yearn for snowy woods and horse-drawn sleighs, even as some profess a preference for global warming. There is something about the chill stillness of a December night that unites us all to transcend the boundaries of religion, geography, and culture.

And so we bring you the Robert Frost-ini. His poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” inspired us to create this December night in a glass, by combining our quick rosemary-infused vodka (we enjoy Boyd & Blair) with a splash of Catoctin Creek’s Pearousia pear brandy. At the bottom of the glass, like a bright red cardinal perched on the snowy branch of a birch tree, is a soupçon of cranberry simple syrup, beckoning to you with its lip-puckering tartness.

Though your friends and family may be flung far and wide, you can all share in the welcoming darkness of December, as the days slowly begin to lengthen again into the promise of spring. Enjoy the moment.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep/But I have promises to keep/And miles to go before I sleep/And miles to go before I sleep.

The Robert Frost-ini

2 ounces rosemary-infused vodka (recipe here)

1/2 ounce Pearousia or pear brandy

a few drops of Italian sweet vermouth

scant teaspoon cranberry simple syrup (recipe below)

reserved cranberries

Put vodka, Pearousia and vermouth in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously. Pour cranberry simple syrup and a single cranberry into the bottom of a chilled martini glass. Strain the contents of the cocktail shaker into the glass and enjoy.

To make cranberry simple syrup:

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

1/2 cup frozen cranberries

1/2 teaspoon orange zest

1 teaspoon gum arabic mixed with 1 teaspoon water (optional)

Combine first four ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Allow to simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it thickens into a syrup*. Reserve cranberries and strain the syrup, then allow to cool.

* Optional: at this point, you can take the pan off the heat and mix in gum arabic paste, which will make the syrup thicker. Not necessary, but it has a nice texture.

The Friday Tipple: Sick Day

Sick Day

We’re a bit under the weather, Boozers. You may be as well, it being that time of year when we find ourselves trapped indoors together, the air visibly ping-ponging with rogue germs. If it’s too late to strap on a face mask, then there’s not much to do but wrap your sorry self up in that old flannel bathrobe and call in sick.

The problem, of course, is when there’s that meeting you just can’t miss, or the deadline that can’t be pushed back one more time. Sometimes the lure of a year-end bonus far outweighs a little physical discomfort. As our loyal Boozers know, we adore the restorative properties of a hot toddy, but we were perplexed as to how to partake of such a cup of comfort within the office environs.

Luckily, we were rescued by none other than Woody Harrelson, the poster child of slackerdom, who, in a recent interview, noted that putting a teabag in a cup is a clever disguise for its actual contents. Duly noted, Mr. Harrelson, and we’ll put that advice to good use in the Sick Day, where Earl Grey tea-infused vodka and actual chamomile tea come together to perk you up just long enough to get you through until quittin’ time.

Sick Day

Earl Grey tea makes an excellent infusion with vodka — and it couldn’t be simpler. We took a bottle of our favorite Boyd & Blair Vodka and stuffed a few tea bags in the neck, allowing the strings to dangle out of the top so we could more easily remove the tea bags later. Then we just set it aside for a few days, until it reached the strength we wanted, and pulled the bags out. You’ll notice that the tannins in the tea make for a lovely silky mouthfeel.

2 ounces Earl Grey tea-infused vodka, at room temperature or slightly warm

2 ounces hot water fresh from the tea kettle

1 ounce mandarinetto (limoncello will also work – we enjoy Don Ciccio & Figli)

1 chamomile tea bag

Combine the vodka and hot water in a tea cup, then float the mandarinetto over the top. Add the chamomile tea bag and allow to steep for a few minutes, then drink up.

No time to infuse the vodka? No problem. Simply steep an Earl Grey tea bag in two ounces of boiling water for two minutes. Then add vodka and proceed with the rest of the recipe.